ABOVE: (LEF TO RIGHT): JOE, LAW, SHORTTY, AND SHOGUN OF ROYAL HEADACHE. PHOTO COURTESY OF LEAH HORIKX.
Sometimes we are overcome by the desire to dance it out, funnel our frustrations through some punk music and non-violent moshing. Not emo, overproduced pop rock or music videos filled with wilting roses and red things turning black—but short, direct songs dominated by rapid guitar strokes and a grainy-feeling lo-fi production. It’s been quite a while since we’ve come across such a punk band; the 2000s was a difficult decade for the once-incendiary genre of the disenfranchised youth. Fortunately, ’70s-style punk is making something of a comeback; Sydney in particular has an active, live punk scene, which is gradually spread to the US via bands such as this week’s Discovery, Royal Headache. Composed of three Sydney natives and a bass player from North Queensland, Royal Headache release their first album May 8. In the meantime, we had a chat with the band’s jovial drummer, Shortty, about musical influences, tour-bus mixtapes, and bands that we wish did not exist.
HOMETOWN: Sydney, Australia.
AGES: 25 (Joe), 26 (Law), 30 (Shogun), and 31 (Shortty)
BEHIND THE NAMES: Law’ is short for Lawrence, our guitarist. My name is “Shortty” because of my surname, and Shogun, he’s had that [nickname] since he was nine or ten. Even his mum calls him Shogun—it somehow stuck from when he was a child. You look at him and it’s the last thing you would think, that he would look like some, Japanese Samurai shogun.
BEGINNINGS: Three of us have been in many bands, probably 20 different bands over the past eight years to a decade, lots of little punk, indie, and hardcore bands. I met the singer when I was about 19 years old, playing the independent, DIY scene. It was a small little community. I met the guitarist through that as well, just playing with each other’s bands. The bass player, Joe, moved down to Sydney from Cairns to study and we met him while he was down. We’ve been [in] bands since the late ’90s, never with the idea that anyone beyond our friends [would hear it]. It’s sort of surprising that this band… more people seem to know about it than just our friends that are also in bands.
MUSICAL INFLUENCES: We’re all influenced by punk from the late ’70s stuff from the UK—as well as ’60s mod and even the passion of a lot of old Motown records. We wanted to do something that was urgent-sounding, but still quite melodic. Straight to the point, songs that didn’t hang around too long. In Sydney at the time, a lot of the music was more influenced by The Birthday Party, and long drawn out songs, and people walking around at night with sunglasses on and cowboy boots and stuff.
FUCK, MARRY, KILL—MUSICAL GENRE EDITION: There’s a lot of music should be killed [laughs], it’s just a question of what should be killed the most. It would have to be toss-up between ’90s nu-metal like Korn and Limp Bizkit and all that rubbish. That was like the worst thing ever. I hated the ’90s for that. But that’s not really relevant anymore, you don’t really hear [it], there’s got to be something worse happening now. What else is really bad is terrible, radio rock like Nickelback. They all have that post-Eddie Vedder voice; they are all going “Yeahhhhhhh”—Harley-Davidson vocals. I don’t know what genre you call that… asshole rock? Bro rock? [laughs]
Who would I marry? This is harder than it sounds. I’ve liked hardcore all of my life, but I don’t know if that would be the music I’d marry because it often can be problematic. [laughs] Punk wouldn’t believe in it, you don’t need the state to sanction your feelings for someone. Can I say a band instead? [I’d pick] an easy person to hang out with and get along with—Fleetwood Mac.
Fuck? Maybe Indian pop music, Bollywood music. That’s definitely got some hip-thrusting moments, I would say. [laughs]
THE TOUR-BUS MIXTAPE: We all have very varied tastes, but we’ve talked about this a little bit and when we are going through this really beautiful, scenic areas [in the US] we are going to have music that will complement those areas. [We want to] somehow, as tourists, get an Americana experience when we’re crossing these iconic landscapes. We’re going to try to make it feel like we’re Thelma and Louise when they go past the Grand Canyon. We’ll put some thought into it; there’s something that heightens the visual, what you’re seeing outside of the window. Even old Australian music, like Icehouse, ’80s Australian new wave works really well, especially if we’re homesick. [But] it totally varies, I’m sure we will put on AC/DC when we’re hyped up. We’ll play punk too. A lot of different stuff. Shogun can be a bit of a fascist with the radio, but generally we can decide on stuff.
FINDING PLACES TO STAY VIA YOUR BAND’S FACEBOOK PAGE: That was amazing. We had a few people that were going to stay with anyway, but now we’ve pretty much got a place to stay in every city and that’s pretty awesome. We’re good guys so people don’t have to worry about us crashing at the house for one night. We won’t cause any trouble.
SYDNEY CONCERTS VS. CONCERTS IN THE US: In Sydney, a lot of our concerts sell out and people go pretty crazy—sometimes they get a little too rough, which I’m not that into—but people like to express themselves and dance. When we went to America, people didn’t really know us except at certain shows in certain cities. A lot of cities are cool, but we’re not an American band, so we can’t expect people to know the songs. Even with an amazing band—after I heard it for the first time, it [wouldn’t] be until I got home and listened to the record that I’d be able to appreciate them.
FIVE-YEAR PLANS: We probably don’t think that far ahead, but I’d like to have another couple of albums out that I’m really proud of and happy with. It’d be nice if we were still doing it in five years, but that’s a hell of a lot of time! I like to think we’d have at least another two albums out that we could stand by.
IF THEIR NEW ALBUM WAS AN ANIMAL: I’ve never though about it as an animal… What animals are really confused? [Our album would be] something that’s just woken up from its stupor and doesn’t know what it’s doing—maybe something that’s just come out of hibernation, like a badger that’s really confused and can’t tie its own shoes.
ROYAL HEADACHE, THE BAND’S FIRST ALBUM, COMES OUT MAY 8.